Hospital union workers frustrated with contract talks

Hospital union workers frustrated with contract talks
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Jean Wood has been working for Mercy Hospitals for 15 years. As a pathology transcriptionist, she said she's passionate about her job, because her heart is with her patients.

But, on Thursday, her and some of her fellow SEIU-United Healthcare Workers union workers' hearts were heavy, because they say their employer Dignity Health has been lacking a bit of dignity.

Michael Carter, is a SEIU-UHW union worker and a surgery assistant at Mercy Hospital. He said, "Dignity has been giving us these ridiculous proposals that have to do with taking away our job security, benefits, wages, and right now, we're just feeling really disrespected."

Dignity Health represents Bakersfield Memorial Hospital and both Mercy Hospital locations in Bakersfield. It declined both an on-camera and phone interview, but the CEO of Mercy Hospitals said in a statement on Thursday that it is "bargaining in good faith with the union with the goal of reaching a contract that is fair to our patients, our community, our organization and our employees."

Linda Arnold, the lead representative of SEIU-UHW, said the hospital workers have been working without a contract for days.

"Because it expired on the 30th (of April), so our goal is to make sure that we come away from here with a contract that we already have, with the same language that we already have, we should not have to pay for our benefits. It's going to hurt all of us in the long run," said Arnold.

Mercy Hospitals said in the statement, "To ensure that we are able to continue our healing mission, we must control our costs in all areas, and that includes our contract with the SEIU-UHW."

Wood said Thursday's informational picket at Mercy Hospitals was a way to demonstrate to the community how much they care for them.

"What people can do, they can come out here and support us now!" said Wood.

The one thing both Wood and Dignity Health can agree on is that the well-being of the community is the top goal.

SEIU-UHW said the next bargaining meeting they have with Dignity Health is on May 9 in Sacramento.